Former NPA guerrillas look to new life after surrender
A young rebel returnee is training to become a soldier while another looks forward to earning a living as a reflexologist.
The two men were among the 241 former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who met with military officials at Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday morning — relieved that they can finally start their lives anew after years of fighting.
At the camp grandstand, they listened to military commanders, wearing their bright blue shirts that said “I am a Filipino for peace.”
Col. Erwin Bernard Neri, the commander of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade, said that the rebels’ surrender in his area of responsibility was “significant” because of the sheer number of returnees.
The 101st Infantry Brigade covers eight municipalities of Compostela Valley, five municipalities of Davao del Norte and one town in Agusan del Sur.
“They had many reasons for coming back. Most of them cited poverty and the failure of the NPAs to fulfill the promises made when they were recruited,” Neri said.
“Cardo” fought the military for four years, starting when he was recruited at age 17.
But those years of fighting lost their luster after the NPA leaders failed to deliver their promise of giving Cardo and his family a better life, he said.
Cardo, now 21, was a team leader of an NPA unit. Early last year, he escaped from his guerrilla front, joined by other comrades, literally walking away from the Maoist rebellion.
“It was in the dead of night. We walked down the mountains and met up with the soldiers with whom we arranged our surrender,” Cardo said.
With a smile, he said he was now training to become a soldier.
“Rene” turned 30 on Wednesday. “I do reflexology and can heal people and relieve them of their body pain,” he said, adding that practicing reflexology on his comrades was among his tasks as a fighter.
Rene also escaped last year, while his comrades were having lunch and went straight to a military camp.
At the gate, he raised his arms in surrender. Rene recalled that the soldiers were skeptical at first, wondering if he was indeed an NPA fighter. After a few minutes talking to him, they were convinced.
It so happened that a soldier was celebrating his birthday on the day Rene surrendered and so the former rebel was welcomed back to the fold with a lunch treat that included lechon.
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